Monday, February 21, 2011

Stepmothering: A Line on Discipline.

I'll just say it.

Us (not so) wicked stepmothers, or stepmothers in training, have a perspective on the children in our charge that parents don't have.  Our perspective is similar to that of teachers, caregivers, long-suffering library assistants, waitstaff, and other people that your kid comes in contact with daily.

He might be charming and super smart and funny and all that jazz. . .  but sometimes, your kid is a jerk.

We can see that in a way you can't but it doesn't mean we love them any less.  It doesn't mean we don't recognize their genius, or their personality, or their style.  It just means we don't think it's cute when someone has their cranky pants on.

This falls under the category of things that usually shouldn't be said.  But, well, twenty years from now who wants to be giving the "he was such a nice boy" interview?

Not me.  I draw a line at disciplining Little Bit physically . . . but I do advocate for it when his behavior warrants it.  Running away in a parking lots or in crowded malls.  Somebody needs a spanking.  Hitting, kicking or pushing Grandma or Grandpa.  Someone needs a time out, a talking to, and if he does it again, a taste of his own medicine.

I do, however, exercise my right to use time out as often as necessary.  I don't draw a hard line, but my line is probably a little more rigid than his mother's.  What do I expect from my four year old Litle Bit?  I expect him to respect his possessions.  I expect him to be considerate of his grandparents.  I expect him to listen to what we say.  I expect him to respect us.  (I also expect him to pee in the potty and all that but that's a whole 'nother kettle of fish.)  He can do that and if he chooses not to while visiting, he has to face the consequences.

I understand that it's probably easier for me.  I don't feel particularly burdened with an overwhelming need or desire to make sure Little Bit likes me.  Part of that is because I'm lucky that he's a toddler and not overly suspicious or mistrustful of people.  More to the point though, I don't think he has to like me.  He doesn't have to love me.  He's cool with me right now, but . .  . he's four.  That will probably change.

And that's fine.  In the meantime though, I won't be participating in raising a criminal mastermind.


  1. hmmm, a child doesn't become a criminal mastermind because he diplays normal childhood behavior. Show me a child who does not act up when mother is away and I will show you one that is medicated. And no disrespect to stepparents, but you can afford to draw all the lines you want because YOU are right, YOU are not the parent, and your perspective is different. YOU were not blessed with the guidance of that little life, and the preservation of that beautiful spirit, therefore YOU can choose your role, a parent cannot. Unless you are a parent 24/7 it is doubtful you can have any real understanding of what it all means, and how easy it is to point fingers and criticize a job you dont have to do. bottom line when you have your own kids, I have a wonderful recipe for crow you can have.

  2. Clearly my attempt at humor fell flat. I always suspect I'm not as funny as I think I am.

    Overall, I think you did get the gist of what I was trying to say. Discipline when you have responsibility for a child but don't have authority with the child because you aren't a parent is difficult. It's a hard line to walk and as a current stepparent who also grew up with a step-parent I can appreciate the layers at play.

    As for the "wait till you have your own kids" thing. . . . If, for whatever reason, I expected my personality and core beliefs and values to completely change because I have a baby . . . I would pass on having babies, lol.

  3. Realstar, your logic seems oddly similar to that of small house pets.

  4. To Realstar

    I'm "criminal mastermind"'s father. I am a parent 24/7 365 days a year even though he does not live with us because I love him. From my perspective ALL children are criminal masterminds unless they are dumb. Then they are just criminal. It is up to parents to teach them a better way.

  5. I think of the responses to my comment, I can at least respect Ms. Franklin's because she actually seems to be a thinking and reasoning individual(and having read some of your other posts, you are actually quite funny), but to Dad( and I do admit to being prejudiced on this one), love is not the issue, what I am talking about is the day in, day out struggle that parenting becomes when you wake up to it, and go to sleep to it every day. When every little thing that goes right or wrong happens to you first hand, and effects everything you do, every day parenting becomes a different animal. When you have an extra set of hands to assist, it changes even more. Anonymous questioned my logic, but let's see if it holds up. I admit to making an assumption here, but if your arrangement with your child is anything like my ex husbands, it is some holidays and every other weekend, oh and of course a small monthly stipend. Consider this, you have the child when getting ready for school, supervising homework, daily arguments, securing daycare, and doctor's appointments don't apply. When you shop for the child you can decide how much you want to spend because you are not taking care of every need that arises, just gifts and whatever it is you decide to help out on. My point is that the custodial parent has a full time understaffed management position, and the absentee parent has what amounts to a freelance, part time job. I am simply saying that your take on parenting is very different from the other parents in this instance. If nothing else I have said makes sense, consider the fact that if you don't feel like dealing with the child on one of the weekends or holidays you can simply say you are not coming, when the custodial parent has to show up rain or shine, because the monthly stipend usually does not even cover a part of daycare, let alone extra time or babysitters. Consider the fact that if you are short on money then you need only send what is required by the court, whereas the other parent may have to make the decision of whether they can pay a bill, or skimp on groceries, because prescriptions or new shoes just became a neccessity. I am not casting apersions as I don't know you, however it is really not about what you do or don't do financially, it is about having the choice to do or not do. In the end it is really about the numbers, in one year your face to face parenting time probably equals roughly 75 days, I am simply saying that what happens for the other 290 days, definitely makes a difference in how you parent, and your perspective on what it takes to be an effective one.
    And just so you know everything about you changes when you have babies, which is not to say you become someone else, but you do become something else, which is a Mom, and once you become that every belief and core value you do have adapts itself to being that, and for good or ill your entire life changes, and on that day you will feel everything I am trying to impart.
    Peace and Love,


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